In Steven Spielberg”s sci-fi drama “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” Haley Joel Osment plays David, a robot boy created by Cybertronics to feel love. The story revolves around him and his Pinocchio-like quest to become a real child and reunite with his “mother.” Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica (Frances O”Connor) are a couple whose own child Martin (Jake Thomas) is terminally ill and has been cryogenically frozen in his comatose state. In order to comfort his wife through the assumed loss of their child, Henry obtains David to fill the void and act as a new child. David”s charming character, as a programmed little boy, eventually convinces Monica to imprint herself as David”s mother. From then on, he will love only her unconditionally, forever (until he is destroyed).
Problems arise when Martin miraculously recovers and becomes jealous of David, tricking him and putting him into situations where he may seem malicious. After all, if a robot can love, why can”t he hate? The last straw is when David becomes afraid and accidentally pulls Martin into a pool, nearly drowning him. Monica decides that they can no longer have him around the house, so she opts to leave David in the woods. Luckily, his robotic teddy bear, Teddy (voiced by Jack Angel), is also taken to the woods so David has a companion.
In the woods, the harsh reality of the futuristic world explodes around David in the form of other rejected, deteriorating robots (a scene which looks a lot like Michael Jackson”s “Thriller” video) who are hunted down for Flesh Fairs a place where humans “celebrate life” by violently destroying robots.
Through his journey, David exhibits more humane qualities than most of the humans in the film.
Due to the sci-fi nature of “A.I.,” the quality and variety of the film”s visual effects are key, and director Spielberg, Stan Winston (make-up) and Dennis Muren (visual effects) do not disappoint. Most of the actors and actresses convincingly look like robots made to look eerily like humans.
The story (written by Spielberg, based on the short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss) has some holes. For instance, no one explains what illness Martin has or why he gets better. This instead just seems like a random reason for necessary problems to occur. It also doesn”t make complete sense why David is so cruelly abandoned in the woods. This latter problem could occur because of inconsistent acting on the part of Frances O”Connor.
Despite the assumed loss and unexpected recovery of her character”s son, O”Connor manages to over-dramatize her character to the point that her emotions feel inauthentic and often unexplained. Osment expresses a range of emotions, from extreme violence to heartbreaking anguish, and he is, as usual, cute enough for anyone to want to take him home.
“A.I.” is interesting, drawing on issues that America has dealt with in its past and present, such as witch-hunts (paralleled by the robot hunts) and limited natural resources. The cinematography manages to convey meaning through basic framing techniques to show the inevitable difference between robots and humans. The use of fairy tale within the story makes it one that people can relate to, despite the artificiality and futuristic nature of the world on display.